How many times have you pulled your groin or hip flexor during hockey? Just because you play the sport and can do cool things on skates doesn't mean that your body is balanced. As with any sport, hockey players are prone to developing muscle imbalances, typically in the lower body, that can lead to nagging injuries on and off the ice. The hockey stride is a unique movement that is unlike any other sport, and it places demands on the body that cannot be replicated during regular activities of daily living. Failure to address these problems can limit athletes from reaching their full potential.
Imbalances commonly occur among the muscles of the hips, pelvis, and spine. Hockey players generally have glutes and quads that are much bigger and stronger relative to their hamstrings, adductors (groin muscles), and hip flexors. When a set of muscles are strong, they overpower the much weaker ones that require more work to keep up, and this could lead to a muscle strain or pull. In order to develop speed and power, all muscles need to be working optimally.
Hockey players spend much of the game bent over at the waist. This causes their hip flexors to be in a prolonged shortened position, forcing their pelvis to rotate forwards. Many muscles of the upper and lower body are connected to the pelvis, and pelvic misalignment can cause issues above and below the waist, such as back pain. Furthermore, hockey also promotes more work from the back muscles, which means relative weakening of the core muscles. A strong core is important to generate power to the extremities during skating and shooting.
To make things more complicated, in addition to the forward and backward pelvic rotations that can occur, I've also seen many players exhibit side-to-side pelvic rotations as well. One hip tends to be more forward than the other, causing the body to be twisted more towards one side. This can happen when a player has a dominant leg that they tend to push off of, or it could also be the result of repetitive twisting and turning towards one side while shooting.
Become a better hockey player by fixing all these muscle imbalances!